Plum Shrub and Our Indian Summer Cocktail

The balmy fall temperatures that we are experiencing in New York this week make our Indian Summer cocktail even more appropriate than usual. This drink is an end of season ode to the plum, combining our plum shrub, Averell Damson Gin Liqueur, thyme simple syrup and Widow Jane bourbon, for a sweet, spicy, herbal and sophisticated sip.

We use two housemade ingredients and two locally distilled spirits for this drink.  Averell Damson Gin Liqueur is made with Damson plums. These tart, spicy drupes date back to antiquity and scientists consider them to be an ancestor of the larger, sweeter plums we eat today. When eaten raw, Damsons are astringent and sour, but when you cook or press them a sort of alchemy occurs — they become lush, rich, and spicy. Perfect for jams, and as it turns out, flavoring gin. During the New York State fall plum harvest, Averell barrel presses the plums to extract the juice along with the rich color and tannins of the skin. The juice is then blended with small-batch gin, for a vibrantly colored sweet tart liqueur. In a way, Averell  is a super local spirit — the first experimental batches were made in the Hell’s Kitchen apartment of company founder Scott Krahn!

The second local spirit is Widow Jane bourbon, which is distilled in Brooklyn. We love this bourbon, and the sweetness and richness of it is a great contrast to the tart plum elements in this cocktail. Including our housemade plum shrub.

Shrubs are sweet-and-sour syrups traditionally made from vinegar, sugar, and fresh fruit. Prior to the invention of refrigeration, a shrub syrup was a means of preserving fruit for use long past its season.The popularity of shrubs peaked in Colonial America when they were mixed with cool water for a refreshing pick-me-up on a warm day, or added to spirits for another sort of pick-me-up altogether. Shrubs are still a great way to preserve fruit, add depth and tartness to a cocktail, or make a delicious mocktail.

We only have another week or two of local plum season. Here’s our plum shrub recipe so you can preserve some before the season is gone.

PRINT. Plum Shrub Recipe

1 lb fresh plums

1 cup sugar

1 cup red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar (we use a floral moscatel vinegar from Spain)

  1. Slice the plums in half and remove pits.
  2. Stir and smash the plums in a large bowl with one cup sugar. Allow the mixture to macerate and release juice for about 1-2 hours at room temperature, covered with saran wrap or a clean cloth.
  3. Heat 1 cup red wine or apple cider vinegar until it is simmering, then pour over the plums. Once the sugar is dissolved, put the mixture into glass jars or a quart container. Let cool, then put in fridge for at least 24 hours before using to let the flavors fully develop. (You can let the fruit steep for up to 2 weeks.)
  4. When you are ready to use strain the liquid, discard the plums, and use the vinegar syrup for cocktails or just mix with seltzer.


Indian summer cocktail.